Democratic voters in Kentucky, Republican voters in California, and Green Party supporters across the USA have one thing in common: their votes are almost certain to have no impact on the outcome of the American Presidential election. This is because of our atrocious Electoral College method of electing the President.
Vote swapping (or vote pairing) websites in other countries such as Canada offer these disenfranchised voters some hope of political power. According to the US courts, vote swapping or vote pairing is legal. Lawsuits were filed in 2000 to test this, and vote swap sites were approved as a form of free-speech.
Here is how vote swapping can work:
A Democratic (Barack Obama) voter in Kentucky could register at such a site, and find a Green party (Jill Stein) supporter living in Colorado who is willing to vote Democratic in exchange for a Green vote in Kentucky. Since Obama will certainly lose Kentucky anyway, the Democrat loses nothing. Since Jill Stein will certainly lose Colorado, the Green voter loses nothing.
A Republican voter in California agrees to vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico. In return, a Libertarian in Colorado agrees to vote for Mitt Romney.
Both of the above scenarios allow the disenfranchised non-swing state voters to participate in swing states, which are the only states where presidential campaign votes matter in our fatally flawed electoral college system.
An argument can be made that the Democrats and Republicans are getting more from this trade than the Greens or the Libertarians. After all, these swaps still mean that the Greens and Libertarians will not win any electoral college votes. But I would argue that a Green also gains by casting a vote against the more conservative candidate in a swing state, while knowing that they are simultaneously casting a vote for their Green candidate in another state. A Libertarian gains by casting a vote against the more liberal candidate in a swing state, while knowing that they are simultaneously casting a vote for their Libertarian candidate in another state.
Now a vote swap is not like a market exchange, as it is not legally binding or enforceable. A better long term solution is to implement IRV, or Instant Runoff Voting (see links below.) Until that can be done, I'm calling on an IT web geek to develop a VotePair2012 website. The site should be non-partisan, so that any voter - regardless of party or ideology - who is disenfranchised by our horrid electoral college system can seek a bit of silver lining.
Why the electoral college sucks:
According to the US courts, vote swapping or vote pairing is legal: